There have been seasons of my life that I have called myself a Christian fully knowing that I was not acting like a Christian. I didn’t fear hell because I was assured in my heart that I knew Jesus Christ as my personal Savior, as I encountered His presence at a young age and my heart was forever changed.
Encountering (feeling, sensing) God’s presence does not make one a Christian, but making a conscience choice to believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, died on the cross for YOUR sins, rose from the grave, and is now alive and well is what makes someone a Christian. It is a decision that radically changes you (at least when it first happens).
It is sort of like “falling in love” and when it happens, often one can recall the time and place or at least the process (even if it was not an instantaneous thing). It does not have to be a specific memory or even a gushy-romantic-type thing, but a real Christian will be able to tell you at least a general time, place, year, or moment; everyone’s experience is unique, but there will be some type of story behind “how they came to know Jesus as their Savior.”
I don’t say this to judge you or condemn you, but to open your eyes because my great hope is that you will come to know the Jesus I know. The Jesus I know enjoyed wine with sinners. He didn’t get plastered with them, but he did sit and have a glass of wine or two, talk the deeper things of human existence, and loved them just as they were (even if they were drunk as a skunk).
The Jesus I know found himself defending prostitutes that were literally caught in the act of adultery. He wiped their tears of shame away, picked them up of the ground, and taught them how to live a life free from the sin that trapped them in their own personal prisons.
The Jesus I know was not afraid to spend his time with those who stole people’s money, dignity, and lives for a living. In fact, he would eat at their homes that were decorated with beautiful things only because they made their living off over-taxing people and profiting from the poor.
Believe it or not, Jesus even loved “the pharisee” who He was always the hardest on. He was not hard on them because He was mad at them; but because he was showing them a bit of tough love, exposing their hypocrisy, in hopes of them realizing that “religion” or “being a good person” or “following the rules” or “going to church” would not give them the answers to life’s problems and will not get them into heaven.
I fear that many American Christians believe they are Christians because it is their “cultural religious preference.” I say this with the deepest love and not an ounce of judgment or condemnation dear sister or brother – this does not make anyone a true Christian.
I also fear that many American Christians who have had that “defining moment” where their lives, hearts, and minds were forever changed have “fallen out of love” so to speak and are no longer willing to get their feet dirty. It is sort of like a stale marriage.
Yes, they are still “married to Jesus” and if they died they would go to heaven because they are still committed to Christ to some degree, but they have lost passion for Him, their love has grown cold, they are no longer drinking from His well of “everlasting water” that satisfies our never-ending thirst for more, and they are no longer eating at His table that offers true companionship, joy, and contentment.
In other words, they are no longer following Jesus around town, getting dust in their sandals, witnessing miracles, and treasuring their time with Him as His closes disciples did and do. They are no longer memorized with their King of King and Lord of Lords.
Intimacy is lacking and since God created humans for intimacy with Him through Jesus Christ, we search outside our “marriage” to Christ because we are unfulfilled. We turn to other humans like our spouses, boyfriends, girlfriends, families and friends and try to make them our god.
When they fail to fulfill our need for relationship with God, we try and fill ourselves up with alcohol, drugs, sex, media, books, shopping, food, video games, parties, porn, traveling, careers, fitness, etc… Often times, we become addicted to our “drug of choice” and it literally begins to wreck havoc on our lives.
When things of this world don’t give us what we are craving, whether we are Christians or not, we begin to lose control – our anger becomes viscous, our insecurities become deep painful wounds, we lose joy for life, some begin cutting themselves, starving themselves, planning the end of their life, drinking more, eating more, abusing loved ones, shopping more, getting more depressed, having more sex, trying out new kinds of sex with new partners, avoiding reality, watching more movies, playing more video games, reading more books, traveling more, becoming more obsessed with body-image, over-exercising, seeking out new, sicker kinds of porn, and everything just continues to spiral until we one day realize that life has become meaningless and empty.
I only know this because I have been to some dark, deep, sick places myself and I have been a Christian since I was 13. I have found myself wondering why I ever left my first love. In Him, I was whole. In Him, I was happy. In Him, I was free. When I followed Him, my life was fun and adventurist. Sure my feet were a little dirty and to follow Christ you and I both must be willing to “take up our cross” and sacrifice some things as He did for us, but in the end His way is better and leads to a greater life – not just eternal life, but life here on earth too!
I do not serve Jesus Christ because I am afraid of going to hell, but because I believe life is hell without Jesus Christ. If you are afraid of hell, then you do not know Christ and my prayer is that you would truly know Him because He is good and He is truly all we need. I serve Jesus Christ because He is the only person, thing, or relationship that has EVER completely satisfied my soul.
Coming to know Jesus, is simply saying “Yes” and meaning it! He is as a man in love, down on one knee, who has already popped the question and is patiently waiting and HOPING that you will say what He wants to hear! Will you give your life to Him for real this time? If you already know Him, will you agree to “rededicating your vows” if need be.
“Jesus” is not one way of doing things – He is truly the ONLY way of doing things!
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